Although not quite as hard as leaving her at three months old at a lady's house who did daycare and whom I had only met once before, dropping her off at her first day of preschool was hard enough.
We started weeks before pointing out various schoolhouses and talking about what kids did there. When school started for them, we pointed out all the kids walking to class with freshly minted packs adhered to their backs. Little Abbey was fascinated with all that and kept telling us she was excited to go to school but inside, I wasn't so sure she was ready. In social situations where she is with kids her own age, she hasn't been very socializing. In the past, she has refused to play on a park playground because other kids were playing on it. Once she makes friends, she is fine but not very welcoming to the new kid joining them. This hadn't occurred all the time but often enough to make me suspect she might have a hard time getting adjusted during her first day of school.
Because I'm a single parent during most weeks, I knew I wasn't going to be able to take her full time or would have to find someone to carpool with. As it turned out, the latter of the two was the option that found me and the lady helping out in the driving duties was to pick Little Abbey up in the mornings and take her to school. I was to take them home over my lunch break. But fears on the first day drove me to sneak out and drive towards the daycare where I had planned to park just out of sight so that when things went horribly wrong and the tears and tantrum had started, I could intervene. However, two blocks away, I saw the other mom's van already backing out of the drive. Had Little Abbey gone that easily in a strangers van? Granted our two families had gone out to eat and a playground several nights earlier but still? I made a u-turn and followed behind them to the preschool.
When Little Abbey got out of the van, she was happy to see me. She dutifully donned her backpack and stood next to the other little girl for picture taking. I hadn't thought to bring a camera but had my cellphone in my car so grabbed it and took a couple pictures. As I walked with Little Abbey across the parking lot towards the door, she looked up at me and said, "Daddy, I'm scared." Those three little words just melted my heart and it was all I could do to gather her up and take her away from there. I refrained and told her that it was okay to be scared on the first day of school but that she would soon see that there was nothing of which to be scared.
We walked up the steps, down the hall and into the classroom where a half dozen confused kids were standing near their parents. I helped Little Abbey hang her princess backpack on the wall along with her coat, gave her a hug and watched her as she raced off across the room to find her new friend. She never looked back. The teachers gave me a parting gift of a poem about going to school and a package of Kleenex. Although I didn't need them, I'm sure from experience that they come in handy for some of the kids or parents. I walked out of the school alone leaving my little girl behind.
Two and a half hours later, I arrived in the parking lot and walked over to the outside play area where the kids were running around. Little Abbey looked up, saw me and waved and just continued running around with her new friends. Besides the occasional, "Look at me Daddy," she didn't pay much mind to me or the other kids leaving with their parents. Eventually when it was just down to a handful of kids, I called her over and after donning her backpack, we walked to my car. She was happily telling me all the things that she did at school, the highlights being painting, playing in the beans and eating gummy bears and juice. On the way over to the daycare lady's house, I asked her if she wanted to go back to school and was greeted with an enthusiastic, "Yeah!" I've never been more proud of her.